When I ate a fish stew some years ago in a Hong Kong restaurant, the dish had no bones. The broth was made from giant grouper. Do you know if bones were used?

No local grocers sell fish bones. And I don't want to buy fish heads...the appearance of fish heads just dismays me. I live in the U.S.

  • 2
    Maybe the broth was made with bones but it was strained to remove them before finishing the dish ?
    – Max
    Commented Jan 14, 2021 at 0:26
  • Why do you keep adding pictures?
    – Johannes_B
    Commented Jan 14, 2021 at 2:38
  • Let me be blunt: The core question is good, the link and image pushed the post into spam territory. And as this is a site that operates in English, it is common curtesy to the community to give names of food items or other in English wherever possible.
    – Stephie
    Commented Jan 14, 2021 at 8:51

2 Answers 2


Fish broth, like most stocks (except vegetarian), is almost always made from bones, and usually includes other parts of the fish like heads, tails, and fins. In addition to the flavor and protein from the fish bits, you need the gelatin from the bones to give the stock "body" and texture.

I also live in the US, and there's a very simple way to get the heads, frames (bones), and tails: buy a whole fish and fillet it yourself. You make a stock from the frame and use the meat for the soup.

If that freaks you out, or you live in one of those midwestern towns where you can't get whole fish, here's a workaround. It has decent flavor, even if it lacks some of the body of a proper fish stock: make a broth using dried scallops. You'll probably have to order them online, but they ship well.

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    I also gotta ask: if fish heads dismay you, how on earth did you manage to dine out in Hong Kong?
    – FuzzyChef
    Commented Jan 14, 2021 at 6:43
  • Cooked fish heads don't dismay me. I just don't want to handle them. I don't know how to cook them. I can cut them off and throw them away.
    – user90386
    Commented Jan 20, 2021 at 4:15

In Chinese cooking, fish broth is often made from fishes with rather loose flesh which disintegrate easily; this way the fish could fully release its flavor into the broth. A common type of fish is Carassius auratus (which is the same species as the common goldfish, but a different breed which is suitable for cooking).

You cook your fish and the flesh and bones all disintegrate. This gets messy, so the broth is strained and the solid remnants are disposed. Then you add other ingredients to the soup. The moral of the story here is, however, that the soup and the flesh need not come from the same fish!

You may want your stew to contain grouper flesh, but your broth need not be made of grouper. If you like, you can make the broth out of sea bass, perch or carp, and then strain the broth. In fact, this is likely how it works in large Cantonese kitchens: since it would be impossible to prepare fish broth for every single order, there is probably just a large pot of fish broth sitting in the kitchen serving as a base.

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